World University Service of Canada is on a mission to shine a light on the challenges faced by girls in refugee camps.
The group, one of Canada’s oldest student groups, is raising money to purchase solar lamps to help girls living in refugee camps study at night. According to the group, most girls in long-term refugee camps don’t even get to finish primary school.
Since they are expected to help with domestic chores and care for siblings, many girls can only study after dark — a problem in camps that lack electricity.
The University of Saskatchewan WUSC group began their campaign with a Sept. 24 vigil on Broadway Avenue. About 17 WUSC members sat on the sidewalk that night, reading by flashlight.
“The main objective was to raise awareness,” said Saskatoon event organizer Emmanuel Ndayishimiye.
Once the vigil began, the group actually managed to recruit a few more demonstrators.
“We had lots of extra flashlights,” said Ndayishimiye.
According to the WUSC website, $7,982 of the initial $10,000 goal has been raised across the country so far in the first phase of this campaign.
There are two other phases in WUSC’s campaign, aimed at raising a total of $100,000. The group hopes to eventually raise enough money to fund scholarships for female refugees and to provide remedial education to help girls catch up on what they missed while at work.
Ndayishimiye can attest that girls in refugee camps are missing out on an education, being a former resident of one.
“During the day they have to work for their family, work for food, gather firewood,” he said.
Ndayishimiye came to Canada through WUSC’s student refugee program. Each year, WUSC groups across the country fully fund student refugees to come pursue their studies in Canada. The University of Saskatchewan has a relatively strong program, hosting three new students each year.
Ndayishimiye estimates the cost per student to be about $28,000, which includes money for rent, food and transportation. Last year, WUSC negotiated a tuition waiver for its refugee students with the U of S.
After their first year of sponsorship, student refugees typically get a job and move on to student loans for the remainder of their studies. The group funds the program by collecting several dollars a year from students as part of their student fees.
Last year, WUSC was unable to fully cover the cost of the program and had to run a deficit. After going into the red, WUSC lobbied the University Students’ Council to increase their annual student levy. The group is no longer running a deficit.
Those interested in making a donation can do so through the WUSC Shine-a-Light website or by contacting the U of S group directly.
photo Chris Uhl